May 29, 1947 - Reprinted May 3, 1979
Transcribed by Janette West Grimes
As a little nonsense is relished now and then by the wisest of men, we propose to present a few of the jokes of a long time ago. Many of them are new to the younger generations and others who heard them a quarter of a century ago or longer will recall them with some degree of enjoyment, we are sure. Jokes have been known long among men and hearty laughs by the millions have resulted therefrom. We wonder if a good laugh is not one of the finest things in life in a way. When one gets to where he laughs no more, he is to be pitied. We once had a very dear friend who was for years and years the jolliest man we almost ever knew. Tragedy entered into his life through no fault of his won and the man who had laughed away his troubles for many years reached that sad state in which he did not even smile. He who had once been the life of every gathering became a killjoy and his sad and downcast attitude seemed to be "catching." Some of the older readers will recall the poem by Mrs. Felicia D. Hemans, entitled "He Never Smiled Again." It is full of pathos and it depicits the increasing sorrow of the king whose son and daughter had drowned as they crossed the channel between France and England.
Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest story tellers of his day and time, bringing laughter and merriment to many, many hearts. Yet he himself was often sad and downcast when alone. Even in his sleep his face is said to have had the sorrowful cast of his own mother, who is reported to have looked almost continually upon the dark side of life. In all the jokes we tell or publish, there is no desire to forget the duties and obligations of life, nor wish to be merely frivolous. But we do feel that if we can bring a smile instead of a tear, a laugh instead of a moan, a gleam of light instead of the dark clouds of woe and gloom, we will have helped the world in a small way.
Back to some of the jokes of the long ago. One of the earliest we recall was as follows: Pat had come to America from Ireland and had found the "Promised Land." He wrote back glowing accounts of what wonderful things America had to offer. Finally his brother, Mike, decided to come to America and join his brother in the new country. Shortly after Mike had landed at the port, he was met by his brother, Pat, who, while anxious to hear from the "old country," was so proud of what he had found and discovered in America that he felt he must initiate his brother fresh from Ireland into the secrets of some of them at once. He had found one tree in this country that he had never known or heard of in Ireland. That was the persimmon tree and the persimmons then were just beginning to ripen. So without waiting to hear Mike tell of the events back in Ireland, he hurried his brother to the persimmon tree, whose fruits he had handed to the new arrival in glowing terms. On reaching the tree, Pat climbed it at once with Mike waiting under the tree for the new fruit, which he had never before seen nor, for that matter had he ever heard of it, till his arrival a little before. Pat dropped down a ripe, juicy persimmon and Mike popped it into his mouth. Pat said from the treetop, "How was that, Mike?" "Foine, Foine, Pat. Throw me down another." And Pat pitched down three or four of the good, ripe persimmons and each was better than its predecessor, according to Mike. Finally Pat threw down a green persimmon and poor Mike did not know anything about the nature of the unripe persimmon. He thrust it into his mouth expecting the same delightful flavor the ripe ones had. But he had hardly begun to crush it between his teeth, when he looked up into the tree and with a pitiful expression on his face said, "Pat, Pat, hurry and come down if you want to hear anything about the "old country," for I'm closing up." We heard that one for the first time in the summer of 1911.
Another that we heard more than 30 years ago went something like this: A certain man had a son who was rather careless with the truth, the boy being about ten years of age. He was constantly seeing things that never happened and reporting them to his father, who tried to teach his son to stick to the truth. But Junior was most careless with facts and had but little use for them. Even when he told the truth, he had so much imagination and fiction with it, that the story never clicked with his father. He was always seeing things that nobody else saw, wild animals, "hants," hobgobblins etc. One day when his father's patience with his erring son was already at the breaking point, Junior came rushing in where his father was and almost out of breath, managed to gasp, "There's a lion in the yard." His father said, "Son, you know that is a lie. Come, we will investigate and I will show you that you have simply lied about it all. So the dad took his son downstairs and out into the back yard and there was the old family dog lying there, peaceful and quiet, and bearing scarcely a single resemblence to a lion. The father took Junior behind the woodshed and wore out a shingle over the boy who had so much trouble confining himself to the truth. Then the father said, "Son, you have lied about so many things in the past that I am heartily ashamed of you. Now you have added another whopper to the long list in the past. You go right upstairs and get down on your knees and ask the Lord to forgive you and don't come down till you have the matter settled." Junior retired to an upper room, but returned in a very few moments looking placid and not in the least abashed. His father said, "Son, did you get the matter fixed up with the Lord?" and Junior replied, "Yes, father." Dad said, "How did you get it fixed up so quickly?" The young Ananias gave his dad a condescending look and said, "The Lord said that that old dog had fooled Him two or three times." We did not learn what followed.
We suppose that men have enjoyed jokes at the expense of the women since the days of Adam and Eve, although we do not have any record of such in that day and time. We have heard and read many of these and we pass along another, which really happened. In the years gone by a Mr. Hembree used to come to Lafayette each "First Monday" and sell a medicine known as "Tree Balsam." He was a very witty man and was a born entertainer. Not only did he make Lafayette once a month, but most of the county seat towns in surrounding counties. On one occasion he was selling his medicine in Gainesboro, when Aunt Polly Williams, who operated a rooming house or boarding house in that place, and who was herself quite witty, approached Hembree and asked, "is this Mr. Henbree?" He replied in the affirmative. She continued the conversation saying, "Mr. Hembree, they tell me that the men are all afraid of your wit." Hembree replied that he did not know about that. Aunt Polly said, "I just want to tell you that I am not afraid of your wit." He then said, "Madam, do you know why women have no beard?" She replied that she did not. Then Hembree mowed her down with this reply: "When the Almighty made woman, He knew that she could never keep her mouth shut long enough to get a shave. So he left her without a beard." Aunt Polly retreated to her boarding house defeated. However, it may be said to her credit that almost invariable she had the better of a battle of wits.
We once were helping a fellow minister in a revival meeting in Cannon County. One afternoon immediately following the close of the service, we left for a trip of about 30 miles to the Falls of the Caney Fork, where much of the electric current used by the Tri-County system is made. We got out of the car and strolled over to the top of the dam that holds back the waters of the Caney Fork just below the juncture of Caney Fork and Collins Rivers. Lying there on the top of the concrete dam were huge chains, the side of a link being about as large as a man's wrist, and used to pull the gates at the top of the dam into position. Our fellow minister remarked, "I wish I had two of these chains." He stopped suddenly without an explanation and the writer decided it was a bite, but he wanted to know. So he said, "What do you want with them?" The other preacher replied,"I want to work them on my mule." This tickled the other preacher as much as the writer perhaps ever saw him tickled. He laughed and laughed because we had bitten on his gag, staggering around as if he would fall off the dam. We admit we would not have cared much if he had fallen on the upside, where it was only a few feet down to the water and out of which he could have easily swam. He laughed perhaps for half an hour and Cal said to himself, "It is a long lane that has no turn." And he reached that "turn" earlier than we had hoped to. After spending perhaps three hours at the Falls, we came back to the church where we were holding the meeting. We arrived about sunset after having been away for perhaps five to six hours. While we were gone, the highway department of the county had been busy and had blasted out by the roots, a huge old beech tree that had stood for perhaps a hundred years near that church house. The owner of the big mule that needed such huge chains looked at the place where the tree had stood only a few hours earlier and then looked at it lying perhaps a hundred yards away and apparently not even a limb had been cut from it nor had the huge log been cut into with saw or axe. That preacher stood there and looked first at the place where the tree had been, and then at its new location on the hillside. Then he said, "How in the world do you suppose they moved that big tree without cutting it up?" We hardly thought then that he "would bite," but decided to try him. So Cal said, "I can tell you." And the other preacher, the owner of the gigantic mule, said, "How?" And our reply was: " They used your mule." Needless to say that shot brought him down.
Later we hope to give some of the unusual and perhaps ludicrous interpretations of the Bible, including funny ideas and opinions on the Scriptures.